There’s more than racing at Saturday’s Portland Criterium

A fun photo-op at the Stumptown Criterium on the North Park Blocks in 2014. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

If my post about it earlier this month didn’t make it clear: Saturday’s Portland Criterium is a huge deal. It marks the first major bike race downtown in eight years and it shows that Portland’s elected officials have finally come back around to the idea that cycling can be a powerful tool not only for urban mobility, but as a means to bring people together and rediscover our city’s swagger.

But who cares about that stuff! The event is going to be a ton of fun — whether you race or not.

Since our last story, organizers have built this into a block party celebration that will rock the Park Blocks from 1:00 pm to around sunset.

Here’s why this is a must-do event…

The racing itself will be worthy of your time: Imagine standing on a street corner as dozens of racers swoop by you, shoulder-to-shoulder and almost touching each other, at speeds of 30+ mph. Then run over to the finish line to see an all-out, finishing sprint. There’s nothing like it. (Watch our video on a recent crit to see what I mean.)

In addition to the restaurants along the route, organizers will have three excellent food carts too choose from: No Q’ No Taqueria, Baon Kainan, and Matta. And of course there’s the New Belgium Brewing beer garden to wash it all down.

But wait, there’s more: Meet at Salmon Springs Fountain at 4:30 for a sporting-themed Pedalpalooza ride to the race venue. Riders should wear their best sportif-attire, as in uniforms or jerseys from any sport, to amp up the good times. Judges will be at the finish to award prizes to the best outfit! (I think I’ll show up as a Damian Lillard wannabe.)

If organized racing isn’t your thing, but want to show off your speed, there will also be a Biketown-sponsored street sprints competition (wonder where they got that idea) with cash and product prizes for the fastest and funnest sprinters. Open to all bikes and all comers. Starts at 2:30.

And guess what else you can do? Check out the queer-friendly Rainbow Market happening the same day at the Cart Blocks on Burnside and Ankeny. (The Cart Blocks has not just more food and drink options, they also have more bike parking if you need it.)

Racing starts at 1:00 and goes all the way to twilight.

Don’t miss this opportunity to show the haters that Portland is alive and well — and that cycling and the people who love it will play a big role in our city’s renaissance.

PortlandCriterium.com

Bike racing will return to downtown Portland, thanks to Mayor Wheeler

Hundreds of fans lined the streets around the North Park Blocks for the 2011 event. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

For the first time in nearly a decade, a major bike race is coming to downtown Portland — and we have the mayor’s office to thank for it.

The Portland Criterium is set for August 20th and organizers say they are being welcomed with open arms by City Hall and Mayor Ted Wheeler.

“I look forward to welcoming the Portland Criterium Bicycle Race after a nearly ten year absence from our city,” Wheeler shared with BikePortland this morning. “This race is an excellent opportunity for all members of the Portland community and beyond to come together… Please join us in celebrating our city’s Park Blocks and love of cycling!”

Why is the mayor so excited about a bike race? It’s a key part of their efforts to activate downtown and bring people back to the businesses and attractions many have given up on after years of crime concerns, negative media coverage, protests and the pandemic.

As Portland continues to rebound from some tough times, this is great news for bike racing fans and anyone who loves our city!

Check a few photos from previous editions of this event to see what a huge draw the event was:

Some of you might recall the Portland Twilight Criterium, which was an annual event from 2002 to 2012 that brought thousands of people to Old Town Chinatown and the Pearl District. I was able to cover it several times (photos above) and it was absolutely amazing. The event always attracted massive crowds to watch top U.S. professional teams duel for wins on a tight course around the North Park Blocks.

If you’re new to bike racing, criteriums (also known as “crits”) are races that last around 45 minutes or so and consist of relatively short laps (less than one-mile). Racers use team strategy, smarts, strength and courage to fly around tight, 90-degree turns while reaching speeds of 30 mph. It’s thrilling to be a part of it — whether you’re racing or watching.

Add in a beer garden, vendors, food carts, music, fun rides, and so on — and you’ve got a big, bikey, block party!

Beardsley winning the 2011 edition.

There were a lot of bummed-out bike lovers when persistent sponsorship and funding woes forced the Twilight Crit to go dark back in 2012. According to organizer (and former Twilight Crit winner) Steven Beardsley (right), conversations about bringing it back started with interest from the City of Portland. People in Mayor Wheeler’s office know that cycling events can draw a big crowd and they reached out to the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA, the statewide, regional sanctioning body of competitive events) to see if a race would be possible this summer.

Beardsley and OBRA jumped at the chance and now they’ve added City of Portland as an official sponsor.

Beardsley says the elite-level competitive events will just be one part of the event. There will also be Biketown Street Sprints, a Pedalpalooza Portland Criterium Sportif ride with awards for best non-cycling sporting costume, and more.

Mark your calendar for August 20th and check out PortlandCriterium.com for more information.